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Egypt's Revolution
A Letter to Marshal Tantawy

Wael Ghonim writes a letter to Marshal Tentawy about the revolution in Egypt

Letter to Marshal Tentawy

I write to you after seven months have passed since the initial spark of the January 25th revolution. I write after I sought inspiration from the company of history books for the past few weeks to learn about our previous revolutions. I wanted to understand the real dynamics behind them and attempted to liberate myself from the influence of school curricula that imposed a single perspective; that of the decades-long rulers of our nation.

Without deliberation on my part, God has willed that my name became one of the many associated in people’s minds with the revolution. The association was formed when I was released from detainment where I had spent a brief period – brief, compared to the thousands who spent years and months in lockup or even lost their lives for the sole reason that they demanded an end to the agonies of our nation. I write as I picture my son reading this letter in 30 years. It makes me feel overwhelmed by the historical responsibility that I was forced to bear.

The corrupt regime, under which our parents were raised, was keen to maintain the people as objects who had no say or participation in the affairs of the nation. The generation preceding ours was taught to abide by popular principles such as: “Mind your own business and focus on your livelihood,” and “Whosoever is afraid, stays unharmed,” and “Walk quietly by the wall (where you cannot be noticed),” and “Cowardice is the master of morality.” Fearing the wrath of the security apparatus became a controlling and firmly established sentiment in people’s hearts.

The resulting passivity has deformed Egyptian life. A sham democracy was founded, composed of farcical elections, pseudo political parties, and hypocritical media outlets, while detainment centers were established for everyone who dared swim against the current. Our democracy bred presidents who, for decades, have won elections and referendums with surreal support levels that reached 99.99%.

But for any objective observer, the outcome of that regime’s actions was nothing short of a crime committed against generations who have known only one president for their whole life; a president whose oppressive security forces thrived during a reign of skyrocketing poverty, corruption, unemployment, and undereducation. As a result of this crime, hundreds of thousands of Egyptians apply to visa lotteries every year in hope that they would be lucky enough to escape their homeland, permanently, to a new home that would respect their humanity and offer them a decent life.

On February 11th, we all celebrated in jubilation our victory over a regime we thought we had overthrown. We began to dream after ridding ourselves of a nightmare that had been suffocating us for very long. Scores of Egyptian youth spent long days in the wake of our victory, meeting and working together, to generate ideas that would address the grave problems that have inflicted our nation. For the first time in many people’s lives, they felt that they got Egypt back. They felt they were now responsible for setting their nation on the right track to the future. Many Egyptians came up with endless initiatives on the internet, some of which were developed by Egyptians as young as 16 years of age. Although many initiatives were simple, they proved one thing; that the regime’s crime was devastating. The regime had spent 30 years doing nothing but inspiring horror and fear of change. They denounced all opposition as treachery and monopolized the nation’s resources for the benefit of corruption that was so skillfully managed and sustained.

After weeks and months, the mode of governance in our nation has not fundamentally changed and the excuse has been “stability,” and it did not matter if the result was stability at the bottom of the pit. No dialogue has engaged the youth, who have been angry at the significantly slow pace of fulfilling the revolution’s demands; the very revolution that the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) has not missed a chance to show pride in having safeguarded. In fact, some of these young Egyptians have been arrested and detained in military prisons after a military trial, while the key figures of the former regime continued to appear before civil courts despite the atrocity of their crimes. Accusations of treachery have targeted individuals who oppose SCAF policies under the premise that they are trying to sabotage the trust between the people and the Army. However, some of those accused were prominent members of the frontlines of a revolution that the SCAF has described as one of the greatest historical moments in the life of our nation.

You probably know better than I do that a regime does not merely consist of people. A regime is a philosophy and a methodology. What many youthful citizens have noticed is that the revolution has been able to change some people but not to impose real change yet, in the form of revolutionary legislation and decrees that set us firmly on the right course. Even the legitimate demands that have been fulfilled thus far have mostly been achieved under the pressure of protests and sit-ins in Tahrir Square.

More groups of youth become frustrated with every day that passes without a clear road map and fundamental changes in the way our nation is being governed. Some of them feel compelled to escalate matters, which would lead us all into an unknown of possibly unfavorable consequences. The experiences of others around the world prove that democratic nations are the most capable of perseverance and prosperity. We now live in an age where sustaining oppressive policies is becoming impossible in light of modern communications technology. Therefore, the final result is guaranteed to favor the people, not the despotic regimes.

There is a historical opportunity now for the SCAF to work with the people who have awakened and revolted in order to set Egypt on the right track. Egypt boasts professional cultured men and women in every sector of life. It is a golden opportunity for every one of us to offer their capacities for Egypt to realize its revitalization. But the opportunity requires achieving real change. It requires change in the way we think and operate and not just change of faces. We need change of strategy and not change of tactics. We need change that will achieve the social justice and freedom that we dreamt would follow decades of injustice and oppression.

As an authority that derives legitimacy from a revolution led by the people, we want you to quickly announce specific dates for the process of transferring complete power from the SCAF to an elected civilian authority that would control everything in the nation. This would be facilitated through determining dates and mechanisms that would find consensus among the different national players, for parliamentary, Shura Council, and presidential elections.

We want you to urgently intervene, firmly, to rebuild the nation’s security apparatus on bases of respect for human rights, without which the revolution’s goals would not be achieved. We want you to restore trust between the Army and the scores of angry revolution youth whose wrath is due to the sustained military trials of civilians. It is a fundamental right for civilians to appear before their natural civilian judge and to continue doing otherwise is an insult to a revolution that broke out to fight the oppression of liberties and an emergency law that stripped citizens of their rights.

We want you to rectify the discourse of state media so that it inspires hope among citizens and motivates them to rebuild and to anticipate a bright future following a complete transformation to democracy. The SCAF should be careful not to use language that focuses on treachery, conspiracy, fear, and warning against the unknown. A language of optimism and hope is the only means to achieving the necessary leap.

We want you to establish a real dialogue between the SCAF and the government’s Cabinet on one side and the people on the other. There needs to be regular communication through the media that is transparent and that reviews the government’s progress, and during which government officials, contrary to what we were used to, would admit to faults and commit to means of addressing them. The lack of transparency breeds greater dissatisfaction.

We want a strong government that enjoys complete power and does not require permission before it can implement revolutionary measures to fight the corruption that affected all governmental institutions. We want you to really protect the revolution by implementing radical changes in policies that will benefit the poor, who were initially excited about the revolution, but who now ask, “What has it done for us?” A good start would be the issue of subsidies that do not reach their rightful deserving citizens. We all know the billions of pounds that are wasted because of mis-targeted subsidy budgets.

We want you to believe in the Egyptian youth who have earned the world’s admiration for their revolution. We want you to believe that they have many solutions and to give them their deserved opportunity to lead the nation.

I know for a fact that many Egyptians who have dreamt of a better future for their children – and who have risked their lives with bare chests and witnessed the death of their peers who gave their lives for freedom and development – will not accept that their children and grandchildren read about our failure to achieve our dream.

Wael Ghonim

by Wael Ghonim
Tuesday, September 13, 2011 at 8:08pm
The text being discussed is available at
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